Eric Berger at Ars Technica noted the presentation of the new class of 12 astronauts, a diverse group of talented people, five women and seven men, and wondered what NASA intends to do with them. Neither Vice President Mike Pence nor Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot were too specific, except to reference Neil Armstrong’s first footsteps by suggesting that one or more of the astronauts would be making the next ones. But where?

The Journey to Mars is not done because it never existed

Berger suggests that NASA’s #Journey To Mars finished before it began. The problem with that assessment is that the Mars goal was never a serious one to start with.

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When President Barack Obama first announced the Mars goal in his now infamous April 15, 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center, he was doing so against the backdrop of a firestorm started by his abrupt and, in the view of many, high-handed cancelation of the Constellation Program.

Obama’s original plan was the study space exploration to death, with research and development programs to develop technology without an actual commitment to go anywhere. When Congress saw through this subterfuge, as any first-year political science student would, Obama went to Plan B. He proposed the Journey to Mars, but set it so far in the future and underfunded it so much as to render it meaningless. #The Journey to Mars was the bright, shiny object to distract people from the fact that no one was going anywhere anytime soon.

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What can Trump do?

Then Berger makes the interesting suggestion. Let’s honor this new group of American heroes by letting them boldly go out into the black (as they said on “Firefly") and start exploring those strange new worlds (as they said on “Star Trek”). Neither Pence nor Lightfoot could be very specific about that since such pronouncements are reserved for the president of the United States. A presidential commitment ensures (or at least should make sure) the kind of seriousness that a long-term program of space exploration needs to be sustained.

So, Mr. Trump, what are you waiting for? Apparently, the President likes a big, dramatic splash and there is nothing quite so dramatic than pulling a Kennedy and telling the world that we choose to go back to the moon and then on to Mars. The setting and the occasion must be just so for maximum effect. But then should be the follow through, which is where the two previous attempts to send Americans out beyond low Earth orbit fell apart.

It occurs to one that the July 20 moon landing anniversary is coming up. So, Mr. President, use the occasion to name your new NASA administrator, get Pence cracking on the Space Council, and send America to the stars. Then, sir, continue to push it because, despite what you once said, no one can ever be tired of that kind of winning. #President Trump